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tv   Frontline  PBS  March 24, 2011 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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>> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to iestigative journalism as the guardian of
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the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. >> narrator: these women have been torn from their lives, taken from their families and sold into slavery. they are victims of a multibillion-dollar international business that traffics hundreds of thousands of women a year. tonight, frontline takes a hidden-camera look deep inside the global sex trade. >> ( translated ): our girls are in high demand, since they're quite pretty and easily accessible. it's a very profitable business. >> narrator: frontline also follows one man who's determined to get his wife back before she's lost for good to the world of the traffickers. it's an extraordinary journey that raises tough questions
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about governments around the world largely indiffert to the traffickers' abuses. >> ( translated ): i hadn't encountered much evil in my life. i thought i'd find at least one kind person or that one of those pimps would set me free. ( accordion playing )
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>> narrator: odessa, ukraine: a port town on the black sea known for its nightlife and its beautiful women. under the old soviet union, it was a center of organized crime. now odessa has become a major hub for the global sex trade. women are lured to the port of odessa from all over the struggling countries of eastern europe with promises of badly- needed work abroad. many are unaware of what the traffickers have in store. the production team has set up cameras here. >> we knew that if we wanted to get inside the story that we had to be in alace where it was so prevalent that everybody would have an example or know people who were trafficked. and that's what brought us ultimately to odessa. >> narrator: frustrated with an
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inability to chase the traffickers overseas, the ukrainian secret service has given us a tip about a suspected sex trader who regularly brings girls through here. across from the port, on the famous odessa steps, we secretly film as she traffics young women to turkey. we've been asked to call her olga. >> the secret service said that she runs a legitimate business as a cover, and she basically takes women from moldova and ukraine to work as domestics in turkey. and amongst these women are some younger women who she sells to traffickers and pimps in turkey. we wanted to answer some fundamental questions, like why don't these women run away, and how do they get across borders, and how do they get kidnapped, and how could they really be enslaved, in... you know, at this point in history?
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>> sex trafficking only started with the fall of the soviet union when the borders opened up and it became much easier for traffickers to find desperate girls, girls with no education, girls that they can fool and persuade them to go abroad. >> narrator: we watched as olga settled the girls in for the trip across the black sea. many are destined for the legitimate jobs that olga has promised. but, according to a convicted trafficker who agreed to speak with us, some of these young women are headed for a far worse fate. >> ( translated ): the average trafficking ring has three to four middlemen. the transporter takes her from ukraine and puts her on a boat. in turkey, she's transferred to someone else.
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she's then sold on to a pimp. >> narrator: we located two women who were trafficked on this same boat six months earlier by olga. >> ( tranated ): thought i was going to work in a shop. we were told that there are lots of women from moldova and russia working there. we were told that we could earn $200 a month. >> ( translated ): i can't say i was very happy or excited. i worried a bit because we were heading for a foreign country. we hoped everything would be okay.
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>> narrator: turkey has become one of the largest markets for women trafficked from ukraine and the old soviet bloc. its lax visa requirements make it an easy port of entry to europe and the middle east for traffickers like olga. >> she got through customs with absolutely no problem. the traffickers who transport these women have a very easy time of it. because the women know that they're going to be working illegally in the country that they're going to, they actually help the trafficker by lying to the customs officials. at this point we didn't know exactly what she was going to do. she didn't know where she was going to go. we didn't know what kind of vehicle she would have. all we knew is that she often goes to a cafe and sells the girls. that's what we had heard.
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>> narrator: the plan is to keep on olga's trail in istanbul and see where the women in her group are taken. the crew's turkish fixer has a good idea where they're headed. >> narrator: aksaray is a bustling district in the heart of istanbul, home to growing numbers of expatriate soviets. compared to what they left behind, aksaray is full of opportunities. but, for many young women, aksaray will be the bitter end to their dreams. olga leads the team to a notorious spot in aksaray.
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this parking lot is an unofficial market for russian migrant workers. goods are exchanged, deals are made, legal and illegal workers head to their new employers, and women are sold. >> ( translated ): she asked us to wait for a while. then she approached us and said, "come with me." we followed her and crossed the road. >> ( translated ): there were some men at a table outside a cafe. she brought us to those men and said that one of them was the owner of the shop. she told us they were going to drive us to the apartment where we were going to stay. >> ( translated ): she talked to them in turkish, took money from them and counted it. i saw her counting the money. i got scared. she said, "don't worry; everything is fine. go with those men. they're good people.
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don't worry". we guessed that she was selling us, but we hoped we were wrong. we hoped that we had misunderstood things. >> narrator: once trafficked into sexual slavery, the women are quickly put to work to start turning a profit for their new owners. >> ( translated ): they brought us to an apartment. that night a man woke me up. he told me to get dressed because i was going to work.
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i asked him, "why am i going to work now?" he said, "get dressed and you'll see." he took me to a hotel. it was a nightmare. >> ( translated ): everything depends on the psychological state of the girl. if she has a weak psyche, she usually breaks down and accepts that she'll have to work as a prostitute. >> ( translated ): he simply raped me. i screamed and tried to run away. he was so cruel. >> ( translated ): they forced us to have sex with different turkish men. they did whatever they wanted to us.
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>> narrator: journalist victor malarek spent two years interviewing traffickers and their victims. >> people have said to me, "well these girls can run." they can't. they're taken to these apartments and these houses, usually in remote areas, and men come in and break them. then they make her submit to every indignity in front of all the girls, and they beat her and do whatever, and all the other girls fall right into line. >> narrator: back at the port of odessa a few days later, olga's business is done. the ukraine secret service says she'll soon return here with a new group of recruits. officials estimate that hundreds of thousands of women have been trafficked from ukraine since the fall of the soviet union. so many that an office has been set up right at the port to help the victims. today it's visited by viorel, a
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man who says his wife was sold into the sex trade. >> narrator: trafficked on the same ship as anya and katerina, her name is katia. >> narrator: katia and viorel met in odessa, where viorel worked as a bartender. her nightmare began when an
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acquaintance of theirs offered to take her to turkey, where she could buy goods cheaply for her mother's market stall back home. >> basically an acquaintance of theirs had told him that he was going to turkey anyway so he might as well accompany katia, and he speaks turkish, and he could just help her and watch over her. and a week after they left for turkey, viorel got a phone call from this gentleman, vlad, saying that he had sold his wife for a thousand bucks. >> ( translated ): for katia i was paid $1,000. that's how they priced katia at the time. >> ( translated ): he said, "i've sold your wife." i immediately realized that i shouldn't jump on it. otherwise, he'd disappear-- like, he wldn't give me his telephone number and i would never find him or my wife. i spoke to him nicely.
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>> ( translated ): why did i phone him? to say that i felt guilty might sound absurd after what i did. however, strange as it may seem, guilt played its part. >> narrator: vlad decided to help viorel after learning that the woman he sold katia to had then resold her to a notoriously violent pimp called apo. >> ( translated ): apo is a person without a shred of human decency. he has no principles whatsoever. at times he can be very cruel. >> narrator: vlad gave viorel the phone number for apo, and
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viorel called, pretending to be katia's original trafficker. >> ( translated ): i called apo and negotiated with him directly to buy her back. i asked him, "what do you want, girls or money?" and he said, "money." >> narrator: katia was being held in antalya, turkey, a tourist town on the mediterranean. viorel set up a meeting with apo at the airporto buy katia back. he then went to the turkish police. >> ( translated ): they had stationed police everywhere in order to nab him. then i called apo, and he came. >> when they start talking to each other, i understand something went wrong and, you know, either apo saw a police officer or somebody blew a whistle.
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apo got very suspicious and he jumped in the car and took off. >> and that was it. apo no longer trusted viorel. apo assumed that he was being framed by viorel and that viorel had called the police. >> narrator: viorel now feels that informing the police was a grave mistake. >> ( translated ): what can you think of the turkish police? there were 60 officers involved in a guarded airport with only one entrance and one exit. there's a checkpoint and tons of police, and they let apo slip away. i'll do anything to get her out of there. whatever it takes, i don't care. i'd sell my f*+*ing organs.
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>> narrator: katia's journey into the hands of one of turkey's most violent sex traffickers began in moldova, a nation wedged between romania and ukraine. moldova is perhaps the poorest country in europe. 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. tiraspol, its second largest city, is a haven for traffickers in arms, drugs and people. it is also katia's hometown. >> ( translated ): i pushed her to go to turkey so we could make some money. some people do manage to make money. it's probably my fault because i encouraged her to go. >> narrator: when katia left here a month earlier, her five- year-old son, roslan stayed
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behind with her mother. >> ( translated ): here i am with her five-year-old child, and i'm 60. i told him that she went to work. what else can i tell a child, that his mother was sold? imagine. he keeps crying all the time and asking why it's taking her so long to come back. what can i say to him? he's so little. "where's my mama? where's my mama?" what can i tell him? >> ( translated ): katia didn't suspect what kind of plans i had for her in turkey. how could she suspect? my plan was to keep her in the dark. katia ended up in a place were i didn't want her to be. >> narrator: though one of the smallest countries in eastern europe, moldova has become a
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leading exporter of women and girls into the global sex trade. posing as buyers and wearing hidden shirt cameras, the crew set out to see how pervasive human trafficking has become here. >> i had a business card that said "exotic entertainment." i pretended that i was a guy from the west who is interested in buying eastern european girls. from the get-go, it was very plain and simple: "i buy girls from you?" "yes." "how much?" >> she got very excited because there she had a brand-new opportunity to start selling girls to north america.
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>> so the next step for her is to find those kind of girls for me. >> narrator: newspaper ads are often used by recruiters. some women understand they're code for sex work, but a good percentage are fooled by the traffickers. >> ( translated ): 70% of the girls know exactly where they're going and what they're going for. 20% of them agree to be exotic dancers, but often don't expect what else might happen to them. and the remaining 10% are totally unaware-- in other words, they are brought there under false pretenses.
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>> narrator: once moved out of moldova, ukraine, and the other major source countries, the women's trafficking odyssey begins. for katia, it's now been five weeks in captivity, and all communication with her traffickers has gone dead. trafficking victims often disappear without a trace. what little we know about what katia may be enduring is pieced together from those who manage to escape. today, 23-year-old tania is
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seeing her family for the first time since she was trafficked to the underground brothels of turkey. >> ( translated ): before this, i hadn't encountered much evil in my life. i couldn't believe places like that actually exist in this world. i thought i'd find at least one kind person or that one of those pimps would set me free. >> narrator: when tania left home six months earlier, she told her daughter that she was
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going to work abroad to make desperately needed money. the idea came from a woman in town who knew her family was struggling. it's common for the first person in the trafficking chain to know the victim personally. >> ( translated ): anyone who works with people has to understand their psychology. you have to know how to lure someone in. they don't even have money for basic food. so most people try to find work abroad. once they hear words like "abroad" or "big money," they're hooked. >> ( translated ): i started crying. i said that i wanted to go back home to my child. the other girls told me, "we also have children, and we also work, and you'll have to do it too. there's nothing you can do about
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it." they said they all got there the same way i did. i prayed, asked god to somehow help me get back home. >> narrator: viorel is now headed back to turkey to rescue his wife from apo, the pimp who owns her, this time without the help of the police. ( pop music playing )
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viorel knows that this may be his last chance to get katia back, and all he has is apo's telephone number. >> so we're using his phone, right? >> his phone. >> okay. >> narrator: apo has a wife named maria who is his partner in crime. at their airport meeting two weeks earlier, viorel had pretended to be a pimp named seriozha.
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>> narrator: at this point, katia could be anywhere in antalya. viorel and the team decided to search for katia in turkey's hotel brothels and discos. >> everybody in turkey know
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where the russian discotheques are, full of russian prostitutes. we went to those places with viorel hoping to maybe find katia there. but katia was not trafficked into one of these disco places. she was held in a private house. >> narrator: posing as interested clients, the crew was led to an underground brothel discretely tucked away in a typical rkish neighborhood. they were then taken inside one of the unmarked apartments, where trafficked women told us they were kept virtual prisoner. >> ( translated ): they took me to a villa. they locked me in. we worked for as long as we had clients, 24 hours a day. they didn't see us as human beings, but just as whores, just as flesh that they could use.
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that's all. >> ( translated ): we serviced between eight and 15 men a day. there were 22 girls in a three- bedroom apartment, and each girl got beaten up at least once a day. sometimes turkish policemen used our services. one girl ran away and went to the police for help, but she was taken back to her pimp. >> narrator: to offer some hope, the traffickers suggest to the women that they can work their way to freedom by paying back their purchase price. >> ( translated ): debt bondage represents the money that a girl is told she has to work off. that amount is easily inflated if the pimp wants.
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that way, the debt never goes away and she continues to work without ever receiving a penny. >> ( translated ): he said, "you'll be paid $500 a month." but the girls told me, "he never pays $500 a month. he always finds a reason to fine you." for example, if a client asks you to do something and you refuse, and the client complains to the pimp, he'd charge you for a month or two, and you'd end up working for nothing. >> narrator: if a trafficked woman manages to pay off her so- called debt, her pimp can then simply sell her to someone else. this creates a cycle of debt bondage from which there is almost no escape.
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>> ( translated ): one pimp sells her to another. he sells her to a third, this third one to a fourth, and so on. >> narrator: tania was sold three times before she realized that she had left home pregnant and was starting to show. her new owner noticed. >> ( translated ): my pimp said, "you're going to have an abortion". i said that i didn't want to, that i wanted to have the baby. he said if i refused, he'd make my life hell, and i'd end up with a miscarriage anyway. he forced me to have an abortion. five days later i was sent to a client. you know, they just stuck a sponge inside me to stop the bleeding and sent me to work.
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>> the camera is this button here. and try not to touch your shirt because there's a microphone in there as well. >> if you're sitting at a table having coffee, make sure the coffee is not in front of you on the table. >> okay, okay. >> i'm on. >> we're rolling? >> we're rolling on the hidden camera. >> narrator: viorel takes a taxi. the crew trails close behind. maria has set the meeting in a public place, a shopping mall full of tourists and affluent turks. we follow him inside with a second camera.
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>> narrator: maria's come alone, but she's afraid viorel has brought the police. >> narrator: maria accuses viorel of trying to get apo and her arrested at the airport a few weeks earlier. she says a turkish policeman confirmed this.
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>> narrator: as the conversation continues, maria lets slip some surprising admissions about katia.
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>> narrator: maria promises to speak to apo and set up a meeting between the three of them. as he waits for maria's her call, viorel begins to worry that apo and maria may simply get rid of the problem by selling katia to another pimp. passed on through the sex trafficking network, she could be anywhere in the world within days. >> these women are being trafficked to the west. in the united states they figure $20,000 to $25,000 a year. but europe is the major destination: germany, upwards of $80,000; $40,000, $50,000 in the netherlands, spain and italy and turkey. all of these countries are getting trafficked women. we have laws in every country on the planet that say you can't abduct people, you can't kidnap, you can't force them into
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prostitution, you can't assault them. the laws are there, but they're not being enforced. >> narrator: a day has passed and viorel still hasn't heard from maria or apo. >> no answer? >> nobody answering. >> narrator: most trafficking victims have no way out. a few escape, and some are let go when they're of no more value. but many get caught up in police raids like this one in antalya. whateems at first like a rescue will actually become the beginning of a new ordeal.
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>> when the cops find them, they deport them. the police just simply bring them to the immigration authorities, and they are deported. they're re-victimized yet again by the system. >> narrator: in most countries, trafficked women are treated as illegal immigrants with no access to the justice system, and the traffickers and pimps are rarely pursued. >> there is no witness protection for them. traffickers often know that they have children and use that as a threat against them, so most often the girls are not willing to testify because they're scared. >> narrator: oksana was caught in a police raid and deported back to her home town in ukraine. in her eight months in captivity she was able only once to attempt escape. >> ( translated ): i was desperately trying to think of some way to get out.
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i wanted to go to the authorities, but i couldn't. i called home. >> ( translated ): she was saying, "mother, i can't take it anymore. please go to the police. maybe they can rescue me". i went to our police, and they said, "didn't she know what she was going for?" meaning, "she knew what she was getting into, and we don't deal with prostitutes." ( phone ringing ) >> narrator: 36 hours have passed. viorel is growing more suspicious that katia has been moved or sold.
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>> narrator: with no one returning his calls, viorel comes up with a plan to confront maria with the undercover video from their meeting. >> don't do that yet. don't threaten with the tape yet. >> then he says, he brings me out of the car with a tape recorder and shows her, ere's the evidence; we're going to get her." you know, we're going to get to... >> i'll say i'm an interpol guy... >> basically he says, "you guys be in the car." then he says...
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>> narrator: viorel's plan has put the production team in an ethical bind. >> i don't know if we're crossing a line. what do you guys think? >> he's not exactly a rational guy at this point. he is desperate. he wants to threaten them, and he thinks it's going to work. >> frankly, i think there's more of a danger that if they see that, what's the point of giving up his wife? they'll just... can hurt her. >> i don't think it would accomplish anything. >> i'm just worried that he puts himself in more danger, and that he ends up getting the crap beaten out of him, if not worse, and that we end up being responsible for that because we provided the materials for that. >> narrator: none of this matters until viorel gets hold of maria or apo.
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>> narrator: increasingly desperate, viorel cruises the streets of antalya in the vague hope of spotting katia. but he now fears her lost to the world of the traffickers.
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>> narrator: back in ukraine just over a month after a sympathetic client helped free her, tania is struggling. she and her family lived near chernobyl when the worst nuclear reactor accident in history took place. now they are plagued with health problems. her sister has a brain tumor, and her brother has chronic abdominal troubles. >> ( translated ): the doctor said that we need a lot of money for special treatments. he said that if he doesn't get treated, we might as well order a coffin for him. >> narrator: though the production team gave tania the money she needed at the time, her family's situation remained
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desperate. as a result, tania has made an almost unimaginable decision: to return to the country where she was held prisoner and prostitute herself. >> ( translated ): i have no other choice. we've borrowed a huge amount of money because we didn't want to lose him, and we've been told to pay it back. if we don't, we'll be in trouble, especially our children. anything could happen to them when we're not around. so i have to go there to earn the money. please understand that i just want to save my brother.
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>> narrator: viorel finally gave up trying to reach apo and maria. after searching the streets of antalya for days, he returned in despair to tiraspol. but his persistent phone calls did have an effect. feeling the pressure, apo and maria took katia to the antalya airport and sent her home. >> so many of these girls come home psychologically devastated.
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they come home with all kinds of medical problems, sexually transmitted diseases. they're hiv-positive, they have aids. there's nothing for them. what does she go back to when she had serviced ten men a night? >> ( translated ): he said his name was apo. i was in hysterics. a girl came in. she was a bit taller than me. she was blonde. she told me that i belong to them and that they bought me in order to have sex with their clients. when i started to resist, she said, "you're not the first. we already had girls like you. those girls that didn't want to
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do it at first work and enjoy it now". i told her, "if you like to f**+ turkish men, then you f*+* them." she slapped me and left. >> ( translated ): katia turned out to be a stubborn girl, a girl with attitude. apo took a very aggressive approach to katia. she didn't even have a chance to realize what happened to her. >> ( translated ): they brought him in and told me if i don't satisfy him... ( sighs )... they'll kill me. but when the man entered the room, i started fighting with
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him. two other men came in and pinned me down. they drugged me and beat me and raped me. i thought it was all over for me. they knew from the beginning that i was pregnant. vlad knew that. >> narrator: with viorel's help, the ukrainian police arrested vlad and charged him with sex trafficking, setting the stage
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for a rare prosecution in odessa. this was when the team first saw vlad, as he was led into court. he has spent one month in custody. now he faces up to 15 years in prison. >> ( translated ): in the name of ukraine, mr. vlad v. is accused of criminal activity. the accused is charged with finding women in the republic of moldova and bringing them to the city of istanbul, turkey, in order to sell them for the purpose of sexual exploitation. >> narrator: katia was willing to testify against vlad, but she was not even notified of the court date. >> it was very unusual. neither viorel nor katia were invited to the court. the proceedings took about 15 minutes. the judge read the verdict and let him off the hook. >> narrator: the defendant is hereby sentenced to no less than
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five years imprisonment. the accused will be released from the five-year sentence and put on five years probation. is the sentence clear to you? the court session is adjourned. >> the prosecution rate is abysmal in most of these countries. the official line is exactly what you would hope it would be, which is: "we're doing as much as we can; we have a counter- trafficking unit; we're trying to prosecute." is it effective? >> ( translated ): i guess i had a good lawyer. i'm grateful.
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the judge turned out to be a good guy as well. he understood my situation. >> narrator: vlad agreed to talk to us about what he'd done because he felt he had ted to do rht by kaa and vior, even if too late. >> narrator: because of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her traffickers, katia had to terminate her pregnancy. the damage, she says, may never be healed. we left vlad just after he was
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freed from jail in odessa. he said he was headed back to moldova and would not traffic again. we informed the moldovan police about olga. they have taken no action against her. not long after returning to prostitution, tania was caught in a police raid in turkey and deported back to ukraine. her little brother died a month after we filmed him. >> this report continues on our website, where you'll find updates on the women in the program since the program first aired, the producer's challenges undercover in the world of sex trafficking,
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statistics on the global sex trade. then join the discussion at >> next time: from egypt, inside the youth movement behind the uprising. >> the people want their freedom. they're not afraid anymore. >> and investigating the muslim brotherhood. "revolution in cairo," on the next special edition of frontline. >> this program is available on dvd to educators and educational institutions only. to order, visit, or call 1-800-play-pbs. captioned by media access group at wgbh
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>> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. addition funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. >> you're watching pbs.
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